Transforming your unfinished basement

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Stock art

Many home buyers purchase a house where the basement is totally unfinished or only partially finished. If finishing the basement is low on the to-do list, there are some inexpensive ways to transform it into an inviting area.

"Painting is an inexpensive way to improve the look of any basement area," says Angela Francis of Angela Francis Interiors. "I would advise painting the ceiling and the duct work even if the duct work is exposed."

Paint color choice can help set the mood for the room and can camouflage areas that you don't want to be seen.

"Dark colors for the ceiling area like black or charcoal gray can hide things like wires," says Whitney Reed, an interior designer at Hutson's Furniture. "White paint for a ceiling can set a softer mood."

Bright color on the ceiling can add a fun twist even if the area is unfinished.

"You could paint the exposed beams with something like a seafoam blue if you didn't want to stick with a typical color choice," says Francis.

Painting the basement walls will require a little prep work if the walls are concrete.

"Make sure concrete walls are sealed with a primer first so that the porous concrete doesn't eat up the paint," says Francis.

For a playroom or toy area that is in an unfinished basement, kid-friendly wall creations can be both fun and functional.

"A colorful way to decorate a basement wall is to let your kids paint a mural," says Shirlene Hecht, mother of three.

Turning a wall into a chalkboard can be a creative solution as well.

"Paint one of the walls with old-fashioned chalk board paint," says Mary Ann Heinsman, mother of two. "The kids can draw right on the wall with chalk. We did this in our daughter, Allison's, bedroom when she was a pre-schooler, and she had a lot of fun with it."

Stain is a good choice for covering concrete basement floors.

"The process is pretty easy to do yourself," says Francis. "Just do your research first. There are all kinds of websites available to walk you through the steps of staining a concrete floor. And, the finished product is something that you could leave as you work toward the completion of your room."

Lighting can always improve the look of a dark, unfinished basement area.

"Take clear Christmas lights and wind them through the open trusses," says Reed. "They give off a soft light and can give the room ambiance."

Area rugs and carpet tiles can add warmth to a concrete basement floor.

"The rugs help define the space and soften the [hard look of] the concrete floor," says Francis. "And, they can be used once your basement is completely finished so they can serve a dual purpose."

Separating room space in an open unfinished basement can be done in a number of ways.

"You can use a couple of tall bookcases to create a hallway effect and to separate one space from another," says Reed. "Then, you can staple fabric to lattice work and use that to cover the unfinished side of the bookcase."

Furniture pieces and folding screens can be used to create the illusion of separate rooms as well.

"Even if there are no walls, place furniture pieces as if there are wall to define separate rooms and spaces," says Francis. "Folding screens which can be made of anything from old shutters to old doors can be used in the same way to divide and separate room spaces such as an in-home office, a tv room, or a playroom."

Fabric can be used to soften and divide unfinished areas as well as to hide storage areas.

"You can take big rods and hang fabric over them which is a good, inexpensive way to hide a storage area," says Reed.

Fabric can also help create the feel and theme of the unfinished space.

"If only studs are up with no dry wall, buy inexpensive fabric and tack it to the studs," says Francis. "The fabric adds softness to the hard wood and acts as a divider. You can choose something airy and gauzy or something heavy like burlap depending on the room's theme. If it is a children's play area, you can use bright colored fabric or fabric with animal prints, etc."